Review: Outlander S2 E5

Untimely Resurrection

Contributed by Julie Chaston

Sometimes Outlander reminds me of a stage play, where watching live allows for a closeness and focus on the characters that’s often hard to replicate on film. I felt that way during the last scene of this episode:  Jamie and Claire locked in a battle of wills over an unreasonable request, leading to unimaginable disappointment. Some actors lose the audience when the demand on them is highest, but not these two - Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe are at their best when they deal in raw emotion. It’s not just the words; it’s expressions, positioning, a tear here and a tremble there. We forget we’re watching on a screen, instead the actors draw us into their space...just like going to a play.

Last week, Jamie and Claire found their way back to each other. This week - in arguably the best episode of the season so far - we see how tenuous that reunion was.

Picking up almost directly after the the end of the previous episode, Jamie arrives home with the dawn; having spent the night in the Bastille (prison). Still, Jamie is taking it all rather well, although he is not pleased to hear that Prince Twit left the dinner party with the Comte St. Germain. He admits responsibility for Claire’s new “witch” moniker “La Dame Blanche” (wanting to appear manly while refusing prostitutes!) but at least the discussion leads toward discovering who might be behind the attack. Murtagh is put on the case.

Jamie has so much bottled up inside, it’s a wonder he’s sane. He’s pretending to like people he can’t stand and has to keep all his stories straight - what he tells Prince Charles is not the same thing he tells Duvernay, or the Duke, or the Comte. He has to carefully measure every word he speaks, every expression that crosses his face. He can’t even be totally honest with his best friend, since Murtagh doesn’t know the truth about Claire and the future. On top of it all, he’s worried about his wife and their unborn baby. Claire is the only person he can be completely himself with - unfortunately, she’s now got another agenda.

Claire visits Mary and finds out that the girl is dead set on marrying Alex Randall (who was fired by the Duke after the misconstrued incident at Jamie’s dinner). So begins Claire’s ill-conceived attempt to “fix” time.

I was rather annoyed by Claire this week, first she considered burning Mary’s letter exonerating Alex from the rape charge - then she played the friendship card to manipulate Alex into not marrying Mary. She was perfectly willing to sabotage their happiness to make everything right in her world. My heart broke for Alex. Of course, complicated characters are what make a show worth watching. If I’m annoyed in that way, then I’m invested - so the writers/actors are doing their job!
Along with the drama, this episode treated us to a deliciously amusing scene - BJR humiliated by King Louis in front of Claire and Jamie! Tobias Menzies perfectly plays BJR’s failed attempt to keep some shred of dignity as the King toys with him, and brings just the right amount of humour when he winces in pain. The King’s reference to Randall’s bad French and overall manner reminds us that unlike Jamie and Claire [or even his own brother], BJR is a common, brutish man; unable to integrate into high society regardless of his rank or swagger. His simple “Claire” when he sees her [exactly as Frank said it in episode 201] is chilling.

Far from being alarmed, Jamie is thrilled to have his chance for vengeance and promptly challenges his nemesis to a duel...and Claire’s Really Bad Plan escalates. Off she goes to the Bastille to swear a false statement, buying time to convince Jamie not to kill BJR, at least not yet.

I see her reasoning - that Frank didn’t do anything wrong [and the unsaid:  if Frank never exists - what does that mean for her own past?] However her failure to understand that in Jamie’s eyes she was putting Frank ahead of him, is difficult to watch. Jamie will never see it her way - Frank is still the “other man” - and doesn’t actually exist in his world. He points out that the whole idea is to change time, but Claire is adamant that Frank is untouchable. It wasn’t out of character - Claire often impulsively barrells on without considering the ramifications - but the way she handled this was atrocious: “You owe me a life.” [Really, Claire? Claiming your “debt”? For the man that nearly took Jamie’s life AND soul? This is your husband, not your adversary. You CHOSE Jamie, the man who’s also saved YOUR life multiple times. You can’t have it both ways.]

Although a duel may not have been the best idea either, Jamie is fully justified in his anger and disbelief at her betrayal: “I can stand a lot more than most, I’ve proven as much. But must I bear everyone’s weakness? May I not have my own?”

Yet he agrees - not because he loves her - but because “I’m a man of honour, I pay my debts”.  Now he’s adding this to the cauldron of emotions he’s already got bubbling below the surface...and even Jamie Fraser can only take so much.

And that’s where we leave them: an absolutely devastated Jamie turns away from his wife and holds position, as the camera pulls back to an overhead shot and the screen fades to black...just like the curtain going down on the stage.

Julie is a British-Canadian, currently living in Toronto. She enjoys walking, reading, wishes she had a TARDIS & believes aliens are probably already here. When it comes to TV "It's all about the characters!" You can follow her on Twitter @JulieChaston
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